It’s the call that no family member wants to get, but in December 2011, a family awoke to a call that 39-year-old Keith had been hit by a car while crossing the street. With two broken legs and swelling in his brain, his chances of survival were estimated at 5%, and even if he managed to pull through, he would face a difficult road to full recovery.
Keith passed away in February of 2014 after two difficult years battling complications after the accident.
As the details emerged in the case, friends and family became shocked by some fairly simple revelations: if the driver had been paying more attention, the accident may have never occurred. And if the driver had been obeying speed limits, Keith may have survived.
The Danger of Distraction
The official US Government website for distracted driving (Distraction.gov), defines distracted driving as “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.” Texting, eating, talking to passengers, using a navigation system and even adjusting a radio are typical distractions. The acts listed typically involve both physical and mental distractions, where your mental attention is diverted as well as at least some form of physical (eye, hand, etc.) attention. What about purely mental distractions? Simply having your mind wander – thinking about your destination, worrying about a work deadline or fretting over a recent breakup – though not often considered when discussing distractions, could be distraction enough to cause a neglectful decision. In Keith’s case, the driver who struck him was approaching an intersection while speeding and changed into the right lane to pass a car that was stopped to let Keith pass. Had the driver been focusing on his surroundings and upcoming obstacles, he might have seen that he was approaching a pedestrian crosswalk and slowed down or stopped.
In the land of traffic school, one of the most widespread sentiments is “Why do I have to do this for just going 10 miles an hour over the limit? Cops are just trying to make their quota!” Keith’s accident provides a great insight into the reasoning behind speeding tickets. The most obvious danger of speeding is that the faster you are going, the faster you must react to avoid an accident in a precarious situation, making accidents more likely.
Source: European Road Safety Observatory
Increased forward motion also makes it physically more difficult for your car to stop, increasing the chance of collision with an upcoming obstacle. The driver who struck Keith was traveling at 10 miles an hour over the posted speed limit and came to a stop 20 full meters from the intersection. Should his speed have been at the speed limit (or lower, if he had realized he was approaching a pedestrian area), he might have been able to stop before striking Keith.
The Impact of Speed
In car crashes, every increase in velocity means a squared increase in the energy released by the collision. An object doubling in speed has four times the kinetic energy – so colliding at 40mph results in four times as powerful of a collision as colliding at 20mph. Most of this increased energy goes into the crash and is transferred to the objects being collided – in this case, mostly to the pedestrian– thereby dramatically increasing the odds of death as speed increases.
Let’s say you drive to work at an average speed of 30mph and you live 15 miles from work. If you regularly increase your speed to 40mph, you are arriving to your destination less than 10 minutes earlier at remarkably increased risk of a fatal crash.
An even more shocking statistic comes from a paper studying the long-term effects of the 1995 repeal of the 55mph national maximum speed limit. A 3.2% increase in road fatalities was found to be directly attributable to the raised limits on US roads, leading to an estimated 12,545 deaths attributable to increased higher speeds between 1995 and 2005.
Here are some important ideas to keep in mind while driving to avoid costly accidents with fatal repercussions.
Tips for Drivers
- Maintain safe speeds and increase attention in areas with pedestrians, cyclists or children.
- Even if not marked, any street or road intersection can be used as a pedestrian for crossing. You can encounter pedestrians even where they shouldn’t be. It is still your responsibility to be attentive.
- Yield to pedestrians at walk signals and allow for them to completely exit the intersection.
- Do not pass a vehicle stopped in a pedestrian zone; you never know when they might be stopping for a pedestrian.
- Remain careful and patient in all driving situations. Arriving to your destination a minute earlier is not worth the risk of the life of a pedestrian.
- When turning right and waiting for a gap in traffic, be aware that while you were watching traffic, pedestrians might have moved into your intended path. Check multiple times before moving forward.
Tips for Pedestrians
- Be predictable! Remain on designated foot paths unless safely crossing. Never walk in places where pedestrians are prohibited, such as railroad tracks or certain highways/freeways/expressways.
- Take special care when crossing to make sure that any vehicles are stopping for you. This is especially important on streets with multiple lanes or higher speeds.
- Alcohol and drugs can impair your ability to walk safely just as they can impair a person’s ability to drive. Take extra precautions if you have been
- Make eye contact with drivers and always be ready to react.
- Always cross at crosswalks, whether marked or unmarked – never cross in the middle of a road.
- If you are walking somewhere without a sidewalk, walk facing oncoming traffic.
Categorized in: Driving